The Defense Department has raised its rates for on-base child care but also increased subsidies for private care as part of an effort to maintain quality and service for military families, Pentagon officials said Friday.
Hourly care at child development centers on base now costs $8 an hour, up from $7, and the number of income categories has increased to ensure that families pay equitable shares based on total family income, according to a press release.
But the cap for reimbursement for child care from a private provider also has risen, from $1,500 to $1,700, a change that may ease the burden of child care costs in locations where the rate for private care is significantly higher than the on-base rate.
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Officials said the changes were necessary to recruit and retain employees and provide high-quality care for military families.
"Most families will see a change in child care fees, but we also know our families understand the importance of ensuring the DoD is able to attract the best employees from local labor markets," said Stacey Young, director of the Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, in the release.
The DoD and the military services allotted roughly $1.2 billion to provide child care services in fiscal 2020 for more than 212,000 dependent children, including 116,538 at on-base child development centers.
The Defense Department considers child care a retention issue, as surveys indicate that service members, especially military mothers, point to child care concerns as potentially leading them to leave the military.
And it also can be a military readiness issue: Multiple studies by Rand Corp., a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, have found that absenteeism occurs as a result of insufficient child care services, with single parents and dual-military couples reporting more missed duty time.
The fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act allowed the service secretaries to hire child care coordinators at large installations and gave the defense secretary the ability to hire directly in cases of great need and provider shortages, offering competitive wages.
The rate increases, Pentagon officials said, are necessary as DoD policy requires parent fees to pay 50% of operating revenue with the services and DoD picking up the other half.
"These child care fee changes will ensure military parents can continue to be mission-ready knowing their children are safe, nurtured and receiving quality child development services," Heidi Welch, child and family director at the Office of Military Family Readiness Programs, said in the press release.
DoD officials said that military families can reach out to their child development centers or school-age care programs to learn how these fee changes will impact individual households.
The fiscal 2023 defense policy law included a number of provisions on military child care services, to include requiring the DoD to study the feasibility of expanding a pilot program that would reimburse part of the cost of au pairs to provide care.
The law also extended child care discounts for employees at child development centers and ordered a study on the compensation of such employees.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.
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